Advice for Historic Home Renovation in Detroit

Editor's Note: What should a renovator know before diving in? Scott Robichaud, who is rehabbing an 1850s Corktown house, share his experiences. Read more about Scott's house here. Read his blog here:

Scott Robichaud's home rehab tips:
  1. Contact the Historical Commission early. Dealing with City of Detroit offices can often be painful, but the Historical Commission is full of good people and they want to help you. It is their passion to see these houses get repaired and stay maintained. They might have old photos of your house to aid in an accurate restoration.

  2. Get your friends and family involved, especially ones who have been through or are also going through a restoration. Things might take fractions of the time if you can talk to someone who has gone through it before. Tasks -- from permits and tax breaks, to contacts for trades and building materials -- become easier with some advice. People will rally behind your passion and excitement.

  3. Make up a budget for time and cost -- then double or triple those numbers to see what it will really take.

  4. Buy local as much as possible, no long trips, use local service, and support Detroiters.

  5. Reuse historical building materials instead of buying new whenever possible. The cool part about an old house is the "old" part. There are many local architectural salvage stores within an hour drive.
  6. Keep up on the bureaucracy and paperwork – bank loans, special insurance, permits, title companies, inspections, tax breaks. They're a pain but it will bite you at the worst time if you let it get behind.

  7. Enjoy it because you will burn out. I personally like to attack an easy and gratifying task to get things moving again.
Remember, there is an end to the tunnel and it is a very bright ending.

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